Massachusetts, California Lead U.S. In Energy Efficiency

Massachusetts, California, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont are the most energy-efficient states in the U.S., according to an annual ranking released Wednesday by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, or ACEEE.

The least energy-efficient states are North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Mississippi and Alaska according to the ranking, which is based on each state’s energy efficiency policies for utilities, transportation policies, building codes, appliance efficiency standards and other factors.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy's ranking of U.S. states based on energy efficiency. Credit: ACEEE

The ACEEE, which receives funding from the U.S. government, utilities and other sources, issued a ranking in July of the most energy efficient of the world’s largest economies. The U.S. ranked 13th on that list, far behind Germany, Italy and the European Union because the U.S. resists widespread public transportation and lacks a national energy savings plan and a national greenhouse gas reduction plan.

Energy efficiency, including building codes and power plant efficiency measures, is a major part of the Obama administration’s strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants — rules that are in the process of being finalized.

States are often far ahead of the federal government in taking measures to use energy more efficiently, ACEEE state program director Maggie Molina said Wednesday during a conference call.

The rankings account for each state’s electricity and natural gas efficiency program budgets, annual savings from efficiency programs, greenhouse gas emissions standards, electric vehicle registrations, transit funding and legislation, the strictness and enforcement of state building codes, use of combined heat and power, state financial incentives for energy efficiency and other factors.

Massachusetts has led the country in energy efficiency for four years in a row, mainly because the state has begun to save energy by setting annual electricity savings targets of up to 2.6 percent through 2015 and natural gas savings targets of up to 1.2 percent per year through 2015.

In 2013, the state reduced its electric power consumption over 2 percent through the use of energy efficiency measures, one of the highest power savings rates in the country.

“In Massachusetts, we simply made energy efficiency our first fuel,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told reporters.

The report applauded California for stringent building codes and transportation policies promoting efficiency.

Two states, Ohio and Indiana, have rolled back some of their energy efficiency policies. A law repealing Indiana’s energy efficiency standards went into effect earlier this year, removing a fee added to residents’ power bills helping to fund efficiency programs. A law passed this year in Ohio froze all the state’s renewable and energy efficiency standards through 2017.

States at the bottom of the list have not made energy efficiency a priority, Gilleo said.

“I think for laggard states, we have some great examples of states that had been laggards in the past — in the South — embracing energy efficiency as an economic development tool,” she said.

An energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulb. Credit: p.Gordon/flickr

Arkansas, for example, ranked as one of the most improved states for energy efficiency. Its budget for electric efficiency programs jumped 30 percent between 2012 and 2013, tripling energy savings there, the report says.

Other states that improved the most over the previous year’s ranking were the District of Columbia, Kentucky and Wisconsin, which saw increases in energy savings.

When asked what Wyoming — ranked 50th for energy efficiency — needs to do to improve, Gilleo said the Cowboy State should embrace utility efficiency programs and new building codes.

“It is the states, not the federal government, that holds most of the energy efficiency policy levers in the country,” Kathleen Hogan, U.S. Department of Energy deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, said. “They’re just such great places for innovation.”

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